By Bruce Penton
Gainer the Gopher gets a year’s vacation to frolic with the tumbleweeds in Saskatchewan. Calgary Stampeders’ white stallion is being sent to the pasture. Ottawa’s lumberjack won’t be firing up his chainsaw. Sad, but true: The Canadian Football League won’t entertain fans in 2020.
COVID-19 has put every sports operation — amateur and professional — in precarious positions and while some have managed to cobble together some action, others have been victimized by the requirement that games must be played with no fans in the stands. The CFL, so dependent on fans paying $30 to $70 per seat, couldn’t possibly afford to operate without ticket sale revenue. Their only hope was a $30 million loan, or grant, from the federal government but word came in mid-August that the feds weren’t going to co-operate. Goodbye 2020, hello a one-year hiatus. Hopefully it’s only a one-year hiatus.
Winnipeg Blue Bomber president Wade Miller was convinced the season would go ahead in a reduced fashion, with the $30 million in federal money paying a key role. A Bomber-led committee had set things up for Winnipeg to serve as a hub for the nine CFL teams to play perhaps an eight-game season. The City of Winnipeg had contributed $500,000.
The Province of Manitoba had $2 million to kick in. The city was excited because about 50,000 hotel-room nights would be used through the season. But the feds backed out, the plan fell apart and the CFL is not only planning its one-year shutdown, but worried about its long-term future.
The CFL is strong in the West, with small profits reported in Winnipeg, Saskatchewan, Calgary and Edmonton, and negative financial pictures in two or three of the four eastern cities, Ottawa and perhaps Hamilton being the exceptions.
TSN’s broadcasting rights money has been a nice bonus, but all in all, the CFL runs on a shoestring. The shoelace has snapped.
When the coronavirus is under control, and the world returns to normal, the CFL will be back, perhaps with a restructured foundation.
The business model is sound, and Canadians love their football. But instead of a national holiday, the fourth Sunday in November — normally Grey Cup Sunday — will be just another day.
• From the BBC, via fark.com: “Racing Point F1 team fined and docked points for designing their car using photographs of a Mercedes and some tracing paper. Ferrari set to appeal because that’s their plan for next year.”
• From Facebook: “Hippos can run faster than humans on land, and swim faster than humans in water. Which means the bicycle is your only chance of beating a hippo in a triathlon.”
• Patti Dawn Swansson, aka The River City Renegade: “According to Arash Madani of Sportsnet, the Toronto Argonauts don’t want to participate in a shortened CFL season. Reaction in the Republic of Tranna: ‘We have a football team? Who knew?’
• Headline at TheOnion.com: “Cardboard fan in stable condition after being hit by foul ball.”
• Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Seattle cut Kemah Siverand after the rookie cornerback was caught on video trying to sneak a woman — dressed in Seahawk players’ gear — into the NFL team’s hotel. That’s what you call disguising your coverage.”